Five options floated for tunnel replacement

Mayor Lois Jackson favours a new bridge to replace aging tunnel

Traffic backs up daily in the aging George Massey Tunnel.

Traffic backs up daily in the aging George Massey Tunnel.

The province has listed five possible options to upgrade or replace the 54-year-old George Massey Tunnel, ranging from a new bridge or tunnel, to not adding any capacity at all.

All of the options to build a new tunnel or bridge would include HOV lanes, bicycle and pedestrian access, and improvements to local highways and interchanges that connected with Steveston Road in Richmond and Highway 17 in Delta.

The province has also identified five goals for the project, based on the feedback from public consultations that took place in late 2012.

Those goals include reducing traffic congestion and commuter times, improving access to local businesses, and improving traffic safety and emergency response capabilities.

The latter goal is an important one for Mayor Lois Jackson, who has seen her fair share of “nasty accidents” in the tunnel over the years.

“The other major reason I’m not particularly enthralled with another tunnel idea is we have seen first hand some of the things that have happened in that tunnel in the way of emergencies,” she said.

Jackson is not in favour of another tunnel, partly because it’s below sea level and could be logistically difficult to engineer, but also because when accidents do happen it can leave commuters stranded in a claustrophobic setting.

She said she favours a new bridge with better transit capabilities.

“I don’t think the status quo is going to work for anybody.”

The Massey Tunnel is already operating well beyond its intended capacity. Built in 1959 for $25 million, it was originally intended to connect rural Delta with Richmond, previously only accessible by ferry.

As many as 80,000 vehicles use the tunnel each day, and alternating counterflow lanes have attempted to ease gridlock at peak times.

The province announced plans to replace the tunnel in September and began holding public consultations shortly after. Premier Christy Clark has already warned that the build-out for such a project is still about 10 years away.

Richmond City Council came out against one option that would include a new crossing of the Fraser River at No. 8 Road in Richmond.

“The City’s Official Community Plan calls for the protection of existing farmlands and that any improvements to provincial highways in Richmond should occur within existing corridors such as Highway 99,” said Ted Townsend, Richmond’s senior manager of corporate communications.

• Phase two of the Massey Tunnel consultations begin tomorrow, Saturday, March 16, at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn (1665-56th Street) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

Tunnel options

1. Maintain and upgrade the existing tunnel with no increase in capacity.

2. Replace tunnel with a new bridge in the same location.

3. Replace tunnel with a new tunnel alongside the existing one.

4. Add a new bridge or tunnel alongside the existing one and keeping the existing tunnel.

5. Building a new bridge or tunnel from No. 8 Road to the new South Fraser Perimeter Road, and keeping the existing tunnel.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader